2010-03-15: Finding the Innocent


Corrin_icon.jpg Keld_icon.jpg

Summary: While trying to catch a meta-powered mugging gang, Keld encounters a man with a mysterious past and unknown powers.

Date: The Ides of March (March 15, 2010)

Finding the Innocent

Rating: PG

NYC - Central Park

Central Park is a large public park in upper Manhattan, largest areas of green with people reading, having a picnic, or playing Frisbee. Walking paths can be found all around the park. In-between the large area's of grass, the park is shadier with many trees. A large road circles the park where joggers, bicyclists, and inline skaters are commonly found.

It's a calm night with a light overcast, so one can't see any stars and even the moon is just a smudge in the clouds. Corrin is wandering through the park, huddled up in his jacket, letting his feet take him where they will and not thinking of much of anything at all. Which is why he looks like an easy target.
The first he knows of the attack is the sudden rustle as he passes some winter-stripped bushes, and then a guy wielding a baseball bat is swinging at him. Instinct lights Corrin's field upping! He's golden!but the bat still gets a solid hit and he's sent flying. Ow…!

Trolling for muggers, trolling for muggers… Yeah, for a while after the Inferno mountain was sent back to its proper limbo, there was a lovely dearth of muggers in Central Park. But with the return of what passes for Normalcy in this rather odd spot, it's back on the increase, and Keld Jonahl has been doing this favor for his fellow Avenger — he's been running around late at night in the park, looking vulnerable. He's wearing mid-leg sweatpants, and WAS wearing a long-sleeve nylon shell earlier, and carries a "butt pack" … earphones and a top-end music player increasing the "look at me, I'm worth attacking" image.
However, the shell got shredded by an earlier set of muggers … who brings a sawed-off shotgun to a knife fight, REALLY? So he's been shirtless. It's too cold for that, but Keld doesn't quite notice that. He spots the attack on the fellow who lights up, and that's interesting enough to get him headed towards Corrin. But it'll be another few seconds before he gets there.

Rang his chimes but good…
Corrin keeps the field up as the mugger goes after him with the bat again, trying to roll away from the blows with variable success. Whatever the original motivation for the attack, it has now morphed into something quite a bit nastier… "Aaagh! Mutie! Die! Stay still and die already!"
His head hurts and he's confused. "What?!" Roll, twist… "No!" Duck, dodge… "Are you crazy?" Slither… "I'm not staying still! You're trying to kill me! Who asks people to stay still like that?" Flip… "What planet are you… OW!" as the bat lands on his shoulder.

And by "a few seconds" we mean "there is a CRACK! as Keld sprints hard, breaking the sound barrier for just long enough to cross a third of the park.
He puts a hand out to catch the bat on its way down for a second whack.
"That'll be enough, skathxka." His grip tightens on the bat.

Corrin startles at the new arrival — big and gold and shirtless… at this time of night? In this chill? "Uh…" he says, switching his attention between mugger and rescuer. "Uh…"
The mugger hauls on the bat, trying to get it away from Keld. "Aaagh! Another mutie!" He's screaming, flailing, a skinny man, almost a kid, really, with dark circles around his eyes and foam flying off his lips.

The bat's held with a grip that is actually making an impression in the wood, and Keld weighs over 700 pounds in this spot. Without looking away from the flailing guy, the gold man says, "Are you injured? Do you need a doctor?"
He'll pause to listen for an answer but first: giving the mugger a piercing stare, his unused hand reaches into the pouch, and pulls out an Avengers ID badge. He flashes it and says to the mugger in a quiet voice, "You're under arrest for assault and for your own good, I'd recommend you surrender."

Corrin pushes up to sit, which makes him a bit dizzy; he won't try standing quite yet. "I'm bruised," he admits. "I don't think anything's broken, though." He's still glowing—he's not sure about either the bat-man or the gold man.
The bat-man, on the other hand, goes almost limp with shock at the sight of that ID. "OHMIGODIDIDN'TDOANYTHINGAAAGH!" He drops his grip on the bat and tries to run away.

Well, that's typical. It's what the one with the shotgun did earlier too. Why do they always run?
"One moment, I'll be right back."
The Alien Avenger leans forward and breaks the sound barrier again for an instant, then catches the running man from the front. "I told you to surrender."
He sweeps him up and carries him bodily to the police mobile ops rally point, back in the direction he came from earlier, without sprinting this time. The paddy wagon waiting near the rally point holds the result of Keld's sweep, and the other three teams sweeping tonight.
After about a minute, there's another echoing CRACK and Keld is standing where Corrin was left. "I"m back. Are you all right?"

Corrin blinks as Keld dashes after the bat-man, and again as he jogs the other way. He lets the field fall as Keld leaves and palpates his new bruises—ow. OW. What was that all about?

He's wavering to his feet as Keld reappears and he winces. "That sound… loud," he says, straightening up. Sway. He gathers his wah. "I think we should check in there." Point at the bushes.

"My apologies. Quicksilver tells me I am inept because I can't keep from breaking the sound barrier. I think he does something strange to avoid it."
While he speaks, he looks into the bushes, then pulls a phone (with camera) from his pouch, and sighs. "There's some evidence in there, I'll have to take pictures first. What's your name, by the way? I'm Keld."

Corrin backs up a step to give Keld free rein with the camera. One hand rises to rub the left side of his face; hiding the scarring there, yes. "Um? Oh, pleased to meet you, Keld. I'm Corrin." He looks away up and down the path, then pulls his collar up. "Aren't you cold, dressed like that?"

Keld takes the pictures required: a small lair, food wrappers, drug paraphenalia, wallets and other loot from earlier victims, and a bag with a spare shirt in it.
He collects the drug paraphernalia in a ziplock, the wallets and things in another ziplock, and the bag. While he works, he talks to Corrin.
"Good to meet you, Corrin. No, not cold. I'm good for much more extreme weather than most of this lovely blue marble inflicts. Are those battle scars?"

Corrin startles at the question. "What? Oh… um. No. No, they're not. They're an accident." He'll back off a couple more steps, pulling the collar up higher. "You're an Avenger?" Blurted.

"I am. Strangely enough. Pays off my debt to the one who found me when I crashed here, and it also means I can do more interesting things than looking at television and wandering around like a lost tourist."
Keld hefts the things he took from the lair. "Want to go make your statement so they can prosecute that guy? And incidentally, hold him until he comes off that nasty drug he's been addicted to?"

Corrin pauses in his backing off and looks in the direction of the mobile ops rally point, which he can't actually see from this place. A dozen expressions flit across his face, ranging from panic through dismay to resignation. "I should," he says, and his fingers twitch. His jaw clenches and he starts walking. "An Avenger catching muggers. That seems odd… like using the big crane to lift packing boxes."

"Yeah. It would seem that way. But my friend and teammate the Green Man is also a police officer. Apparently the first metahuman openly on the force, and the first police officer to be accepted as an Avenger. I'm nowhere near as inspiring, so it's suitable for me to do some grunt work. They've been having a lot of trouble since… you've heard of the infernal invasion that hit after the beginning of the year?"
He leads along a less mushy path - the ground is still sodden from earlier rains - so it takes a few minutes to get to the rally point. The police gathered there are preparing to close up shop for the night, the paddy wagon having already rolled out.

Corrin tags along in Keld's wake, sinking lower and lower into the collar of his jacket as he approaches the brighter lights around the police vans. "I wasn't here for that," he says, his voice fading. "I don't know about trouble. I don't even know why that guy picked me. I don't have any money."

Keld nods, handing over the evidence and the cell phone (not his, obviously. His avengers communicator is in his insignia, which is in the bottom of the bag.)
"He was pretty desperate, I expect. He hadn't eaten anything in at least two days, he was emaciated, his heart was beating erratically. And his drug stash was empty."
He takes a duffel bag from under the table and pulls a shirt from inside it, blue and red with a big green stylized bird on the chest, and pulls it down over his body. He waits for Corrin to finish giving his report, then asks, "Do you want something to eat? I'll buy, there's an all-night place down the street from here."

Corrin makes a face at the clipboard the cop hands him, with the forms for the report on it, and takes it a little ways off to fill it out. Yes, he sits so his left side is in shadow. The cops eye him a bit warily, but since it isn't against the law to be scruffy, they're just gruff with him.
He's retreating from them when Keld makes his offer and that shocks him still. He opens his mouth to say, "No, thank you," but that's when his body, stirred by the description Keld just gave of the junkie, voices its opinion: yes, food! He turns brick red. "Um," he says, hands hovering distractedly over growling belly and livid scars. "I can't pay you." Embarassment, thy name is Corrin.

The alien shrugs, entirely a human gesture, not the odd stiff-shouldered thing that was part of his original body parlance.
"I don't expect payment. You will someday do the same for someone else, and remember."
He looks across at the police officer who checked the evidence, gets the ok, and off to the all-night place. Which, at this hour, is probably full of drunks and chefs. The best time to eat there, when the chefs are there.

Do the same for someone else? That manages to both catch Corrin's attention and trap it, because he trots along behind Keld as Keld heads for the diner. "How do you know?" he asks, catching up on Keld's left side and eying him sideways. "How could you possibly know? I might never pay that forward. Your kind gesture would be…" hands wave in front of him helplessly as he tries to find words. "Wasted!"

That's a good question. Keld puts on a sort of scowl, which is supposed to register humorous contemplation, though it might just be confusing because his voice carries that concept quite well. "You know, I can't know. I can only hope. But you seem like a decent fellow, and you did what you felt was right, without shirking, when the situation required it."
And they're at the place. It's unassuming. Very much. But the smells coming from beyond that green door could make a dead-from-starvation anorexic teenager salivate.

And it makes Corrin's belly growl again. He goes red again. "I'd try," he says rather faintly. "But I haven't been very good at doing, lately."

Keld holds the door open. "I won't complain. You wouldn't believe the problems I was having not that long ago myself."
Inside, the place is mildly lively. The late night special is some kind of fusion-variant combining jamaican flavors with italian ingredients in fist-size calzone.
"So what do you do, Corrin?"

The smells do it; Corrin ducks past Keld to go in and closes his eyes to inhale again—near a meal in itself, that smell. "Oh," he says. "Whatever. Moving boxes, cleaning boats, a little bit of watchman stuff. Whatever comes along." The room is full of diners; he'll let Keld pick the table, because Keld is the biggest guy in the room, and that's what the biggest guy does, in Corrin's world. "I don't suppose Avengers need any of that."

Keld waits for a waiter to spot him, makes a "two" gesture, and the man waves towards a table for six partly occupied by two rapidly chattering women speaking Basque. They give a quick up and down glance at the two men being led to their table, and then return to their conversation, which encompasses anything NOT to do with men.
"Hm? Are you asking if we have work available? I don't know. Jarvis hires any work we need done of that sort. I do know we have several members with contacts with places that do hire."
That's an aspect of this world that Keld just doesn't understand. Why do humans waste their resource of work this way? The waiter asks for orders and Keld nods to Corrin. "Whatever the man wants. I'll have a special."

Corrin dittoes Keld's order, because that was the first thing he smelled and the belly is now determined. He scrunches his chair around so that the ladies at the other end of the table get his right profile. "I don't know anything about the Avengers. Do they hire day work? I…" his expression goes distant for a moment with revelation. "That might be interesting." A quick smile to the waiter when he returns to fill water glasses.

Keld grins, just a moderately goofy expression, "That's kinda what I said at first too. Jarvis is a great guy, totally a master of his craft."
He drains a glass of water — who'd have thought running around in balmy weather like this, not even freezing — could make someone so thirsty?
And it doesn't take much time at all to bring the food, as it's all made up already.

"So… what was it like…?" Because Corrin is dying to find out. "I mean, you've met them all, right? Captain America and Iron Man and the Wasp and She-Hulk and…!" A little bit fan-boy? … Okay. Maybe a tad more than a little.
The questions do slow down a bit when the food arrives, but not by much; amazing how he can buzz-saw through an Italo-Jamaican … thing … that fast, all without spraying crumbs all over.

The gold man says, "Actually, She-Hulk was the one who found me. She's a great kisser."
TMI? Given that slightly evil grin, probably intentional. Keld has been on earth long enough to learn when he's being spit-take-worthy.
He innocently continues, "I haven't met Iron Man yet, saw Captain America once but he's been doing a lot of other stuff. Spider-Woman and Living Lightning and Green Man, I have met. Lightning's gone to work with the West Coast branch for a bit, I think."
Keld is slower eating, enjoys Every Bite. WOW this is so much BETTER than everything he's ever eaten before in his LIFE. Well, until Earth.

Corrin stops chewing, his mouth open, on the comment re: the kissing. As Keld moves on to talking about the other Avengers, he makes a sort of gurgling noise and dives into his water glass. Seems he needs help swallowing…
When he's done slurping, he watches you eat for a moment, a faint smile hovering around his eyes as he tries to figure out what to say. The best he can think of is, "It sounds… busy. Busy is good."
Geez, Corrin! Loser. He ducks down over his food again.

Keld chuckles. "I didn't even say how good a kisser Living Lightning is. Mostly because he wouldn't. Honestly, I did it to learn to speak English."
Apparently it's a tradition for gold-skinned aliens to learn to speak by kissing someone. At least according to a comic book someone left in the Avengers library.

Corrin chokes on his food.

Keld adopts an alarmed expression (no, it wasn't a foundling) and moves around to do the "heimlich" thing from the first aid training, if necessary. "You OK, Corrin? You shouldn't breathe food, it's far too difficult to extract oxygen from solids."

The Heimlich maneuvre is needed… and much appreciated (though not by the Basque-speaking ladies at the other end of the table.) They leave as Corrin coughs a couple of times and makes another grab for his water glass.
"Did you really?" After waving off the waiter — no, he's fine. No, it wasn't the food. The food is great! — he leans forward. "About you kissing Living Lightning?" He's not sure if he's just this side of laughter or terror.

Keld returns to his seat, glancing at the man's ribs to make sure he hasn't broken anything. He's probably unaware that when he does this his eyes emit a glow all their own, for just the second or two it takes to check for injury. He asks the waiter for a replacement calzone, because he had bad aim and didn't land the ejecta in the whiskey glass of that noisy man at the bar. That would have been perfect.
"Well… It's been in the papers, a bit. Living Lightning is gay, and I did ask him. I have a sort of touch-telepathic power, and to learn a skill requires long touch or more intimate touch. He mistook it for an invitation to sex, and refused, but I hardly know him and even as a space marine I'm not that completely outrageous. So I learned english from She-Hulk by sharing a long kiss in the driveway of Avengers' Mansion which … kinda got us in the tabloids."

Corrin tilts his head to one side. "I didn't even know that," he murmurs, and sips his water. He doesn't blink an eye at your power descriptions or the phrase 'space marine'. He does seem to be lingering on the internal image he has of kissing She-Hulk. "That must have been… was… damn. Dang. Darn! That must have been …" He realizes he's stuttering and hides behind his water glass.

Keld laughs. "It was. I was doing that same face you're doing there for an hour. She's really a brilliant and articulate woman, a lawyer, very brave. Even when she isn't seven feet tall and stronger than me, she's attractive. But she's a warrior, and I'm from a long line of career military."

Corrin blinks a couple of times and shakes off the image of She-Hulk (for now…) "Really? You mentioned the marines. Is it both sides?" He's got a little bit of his calzone left; he starts nibbling at it again, being much more careful this time.

Keld grins, and waits for Corrin to have a clear airway. "Yeah, I have it on all three sides. My fathers were partnered, my mother was one of their squadmates who claimed the honor of giving them an egg, and like most of my caste, I was gestated in a machine."
Welcome to alien TMI!

Corrin stops. Completely, frozen in mid-reach for a napkin. You can almost hear the gears squealing, trying to re-engage.
When his fingers close on the napkin and he sits upright again, the look he gives you is almost sparking, as the logic circuits try and fail to connect. "I'm sorry. Two fathers? An egg?" The idea of gestating in a machine brings something much darker to mind and he shakes himself, denying memory, rejecting it.

Keld watches that 'I have seen things you people wouldn't believe' expression going over Corrin and he remembers the time he watched the movie and wondered how they got that part right. He'd reach out to touch his hand but that would be an intrusion on the restructuring of the man's poise, and that's not something Keld feels up to doing yet. Once Corrin is more present in the now, he'll explain further: "I'm an alien to this world. My planet has been at war for nearly ten thousand years. I have two fathers and a mother because my planet doesn't practice random genetic mingling, and more than half our people are pod-borne rather than carried to term by their biological mother. We've been at war a long time and we have to keep up the population."

There are so many questions to ask… where to start?! Corrin stares at Keld for a long moment, gears still straining. "Alien." He settles his hands on the table and absorbs information. It isn't meshing well; he's having to make room. "Alien." A couple of blinks and he looks Keld up and down—what he can see of him behind the table, anyway. "You look human." Another blink. "But you were running… Is it colder on your world?"

Keld shrugs with the human body-parlance. "It's more extreme. A larger world. The plants and animals are more vicious. At the poles in winter it snows carbon dioxide, in the equatorial desert you can melt lead at midday. I have some differences from normal humans, even from the normal people of my own world."

Several more blinks. He keeps this up, the other people in the restaurant may think Corrin is flirting with Keld. "Differences… because you're a soldier? Because that's your… caste?" And another blink. "Or because you're like a mutant? Or…" He stops, because he's run off the end of the mental sidewalk and he's groping around for something solid to land on.

Keld puts his hand on the table palm down between them. "See the hexagonal weave under my skin? That's armor. It's genetically engineered. We mastered our own genome many years ago, Corrin. War and our power to change our genetic makeup made our society stratified. Some of us are more brilliant, others are made to be productive and happy, others are like me, created to be weapons against our enemies. We have too many powerful enemies. So I was sent here with others, because your sun does things to us that might have made better warriors, but only myself and one other survived it, and he's gone elsewhere to seek the rest of our platoon, didn't even know I had survived."
He says in a deadpan voice, "You can touch it to feel the difference if you want to."

Corrin tilts his head to look at Keld's arm, obedient, but he doesn't otherwise move. He sees the hexagons now, under Keld's skin, his attention focused on that pattern for the moment. Aliens. Warriors. Lost… He shoves up and away from the table, then stops, still staring at the hexagons. "Sorry… bathroom break," he says, his voice a bit higher and thinner than it was. Then he's escaping through the clutter of tables… stop. Wait. Ladies. He looks around and sees the Mens and reorients on it.

Keld watches, looking through walls to see that Corrin's not having undue issues. The shellshock thing, that's familiar … too much too fast and some of the shocked will go nonlinear, some catatonic, some just against their normal selves. The waiter comes and Keld pays the bill, wating for Corrin to come back.

Which he does, after he's had a chance to splash his face with water and calm down some. Corrin arrives back at the table, pink around the ears and embarrassed. "Um… sorry. Just had to go." He'll let it stand at that.

Keld has decided at this point that it's unlikely that Corrin is a menace or a spy, but he does contrive to brush a fingertip against the man's hand at some point, probably during the "after you" dance when leaving the restaurant, or on entry to Avenger's Mansion. He's pretty sure that it will be safer for the city if this man is where he can be watched and helped, and the mental snapshot will probably be enough to confirm that.
"I've texted ahead to Jarvis to expect us, Corrin. He may be able to give you a few day's work, but definitely there's a warm place to sleep if you need one."

And if Corrin twitches away from the touch? That's a pretty normal shellshock reaction, too — and one that he seems aware of, because he forces himself to not twitch away from any follow-up touch.
"Thank you for your kindness, Keld," he says. "I'll try to deserve it." And that becomes his mantra, as he follows Keld's lead back out into the night.

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